[Review] Panzer Paladin – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Tribute Games
  • Publisher: Tribute Games
  • Release Date: 21/07/2020
  • Price: $19.99 / £16.00
  • Review code provided by Tribute Games

Introducing: Panzer Paladin Switch Review

Giant robots will always be cool in my book. Whether we’re talking Gundam, Transformers, Power Rangers or Voltron; giant fighting robots have found a way to get my blood pumping. When I originally heard about Panzer Paladin, I was making appointments for PAX East. I knew I had to seek it out. Fast forward four months and I finally have the game in my mecha-loving hands. Was it worth the wait or did it short circuit on takeoff? Step into the cockpit to find out!

Earth Defense Force

The Earth is under attack by the denizens of the underworld. Demons, monsters, myths, and legends alike are raining hell on Earth. The only thing that stands in the way of certain disaster is Grit, a super powered mech (or Paladin) and his pilot Flame. Flame isn’t an ordinary pilot either, she is a blue-haired rescue android with enough gumption to put a hurt on the demons herself. With their unified efforts, they set out to take out the leader of the underworld, Ravenous and his minions, the Weapon Keepers.

The story is told through gorgeous pixelated cutscenes which could have been straight from an 80’s Tatsunoko anime (Gatchaman and Speed Racer). Flame is given time to shine in these scenes, as are the supporting characters. There is even a mysterious general with an eye-patch – it’s so stylish. The folks at Tribute Games put a ton of heart into this story. There are some minor twists and turns that occur later in the game, nothing mind blowing, but it fits the vibe. Panzer Paladin also features two different endings, which is a cool touch. I received the “chaotic” ending and I quite enjoyed it, even though it may be considered the bad ending.

The Pazuzu Accords

Panzer Paladin is an action game through and through with strong connections to Mega Man, Zelda II and Blaster Master. Where many indie developers site these games as sources, it can really be felt in the DNA of Panzer Paladin. Being able to choose from ten stages in any order with larger than life Weapon “Masters” at the end of each level, that’s a great Mega Man callback. Having a giant mech that is controlled by a smaller humanoid character that can exit the machine at anytime as well as solve puzzles or traverse secret areas, that’s direct from Blaster Master. The sword play and use of spells feels like it was pulled from Zelda II. Having the weapons break and throwing the weapons right before they break can cause double damage? Look no further than Breath of the Wild.

Panzer Paladin is a love letter to Nintendo games past and present. Like so many action games before it, you can level up your character with the excess weapons from the previous level. These can be grinded for, but once you get the hang of the combat, you will have more weapons than you thought possible. One last comparison is the cutscenes mentioned earlier. It would be unfair not to say they are a more advanced take on the ones seen in the NES Ninja Gaiden games. Enough about what it is inspired by, the game stands on its own two feet just fine. Combat with your Paladin revolves around the many weapons you will find on your journey. Enemies of all sizes drop them, but they can also be found in walls or behind hidden blocks.

The Horseman Cometh

The layout of the game is split between 17 stages. The tutorial stage is great for getting beginner Paladins ready to face the worst! The next ten stages can be played in any order. The final five stages are played back-to-back like the Wily stages in Mega Man. Awaiting at the end of the final gauntlet is Ravenous and you will have to give it everything you have. While I thought the difficulty of the game was near perfect, there were random spikes that drained quite a few lives from me, and some particularly tricky platforming sections that required pixel-perfect jumps. In the later levels, they can be quite frustrating with some major stretches between checkpoints.

Upon completion of the story mode, you unlock several different modes as well. The biggest one is the remixed mode which plays through the story again like a new game plus. There are some surprises with different enemy placements and at least one new boss. The other unlockable mode is Tournament mode. This is a boss rush gauntlet in which you try for the highest score and a place on the leaderboards. For other modes, there is also the Blacksmith mode which allows aspiring artists to forge their own weapons. These can later be found in game as potential drops.

Sounds of the Past

As I stated earlier, the pixel work in Panzer Paladin is fantastic. Grit and Flame are both highly detailed in gameplay and story segments. The bosses are wonders to behold. They not only look ghastly and beautiful but animate fluidly as well. Some of the minor enemies can be a bit overused, such as the palette swaps of the knights, but others, like the shield wielders, make up for them.

The music of Panzer Paladin is a mix of 8 and 16 bit. Some of tunes sound like they could be from the Konami TMNT games whereas others sound like they could be pulled from a Mega Drive or Master System Game. All-in-all, the OST is superb, with the best track going to the Horseman. When he appears, he has a Proto Man-esque entrance song. Whenever his track would come on, I would get goosebumps.

False Start

During my eight plus hour playtime with Panzer Paladin, I only encountered one glitch and oddly enough it was right when I turned the game on for the first time. The very first time I started the game, it crashed before I even saw the Tribute Games logo. After that, I never had another issue, either in handheld or docked. So that’s something, right? Crash once to have a perfect gameplay experience for the rest of the time? I’ll take it.

Final Thoughts

Panzer Paladin is a unique take on the giant fighting robot genre, as you aren’t fighting other robots, but demons, monsters and other creepy beings from folklore. Add in the excellent weapon-based combat, hyper stylized graphics and a soundtrack that slaps, this game is near perfect. Having odd difficulty spikes with the platforming sections near the end can cause minor heart palpitations, especially if you are on your last life. These small setbacks aside, Panzer Paladin could be this year’s indie darling and a game all action fans should experience.

Pros

  • Ninja Gaiden inspired cutscenes
  • Great swordplay/combat
  • Character designs

Cons

  • Instant crash
  • Difficulty spikes/platforming

Verdict

Panzer Paladin is an incredible game that takes what our favorite retro games did and manages to improve on almost every aspect of them.

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